Fact or Fiction - May Edition


Each month we keep you up to date with some of the hot topics and talking points within the marketing and advertising industries.

This month we’re looking at the benefits (or lack thereof) of narrow targeting, the prevalence of short-termism and the lack of trust in some media channels.


To Target or Not to Target

The problem with this question is that even though many marketers agree with targeting, our approaches can be so different that we’re not actually agreeing on the same thing.

Rachel Kennedy and the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute have heavily researched this area and believe that it’s not about whether we should target or not but rather how much targeting we do.

“Targeting is like salt in cooking. A little is good, it adds flavour, but too much and you ruin the dish.”

With most brand growth coming through the acquisition of light buyers they believe that the real question we should be asking ourselves is who do we want our advertising to reach?

The answer is simple; “Target the market. Reach all category buyers.”

With narrow targeting you often only reach heavy buyers. As Planning Director Eaon Pritchard notes in his new book Where Did It All Go Wrong, “we get distracted by the high response rates and dramatic ROI that appears to fall out of highly targeted direct response. On the surface it appears logical. But where these sales often come from are people who are most likely to buy anyway.”

Including as many people as possible within your target market should be applied to both the media and creative, which in most cases should be developed to work across a broad audience.

Kennedy expands on this; “Sure, if you’re selling dog food, exclude people who don’t own dogs, but think inclusion where ever possible rather than exclusion. Some people who do not currently have a dog may come into the market and having a presence in their memories as a pet food brand will then not be all wasted.”

So if you’re looking for profitable brand growth in the long term, narrow targeting is something that you’d be best to avoid. But perhaps the Dalai Lama gets it most of all in a recent tweet:

Most brands have a diverse range of customers. Look for ways to reach and appeal to as many of them as possible.


The Short-Term Tactic That’s a Long-Term Con

Matt was recently quoted in the European marketing news title, The Drum. In the piece Samuel Scott builds the case that content-based advertising and growth hacking are symptoms of the digital age where many brands look to maximise clicks and conversions above all else.

Here’s an excerpt:

In line with Holiday’s definition, the goal is to spread whatever “content” over the internet that will maximize clicks to a website from a relevant target market and then maximize the website’s conversion rate of the traffic into sales or leads. This two-pronged approach is constantly tested and optimized in an “agile” way with various tools, metrics, and dashboards.

Sure, it sounds reasonable. But it is usually a long-term waste of money.

Matt Arbon, the creative partner at the Sydney advertising agency ScienceFiction, wrote the perfect response in this tweet:

That instant gratification is sometimes in the form of clickbait headlines that push psychological buttons to get people to click. But all clicks are not created equal.

It comes down to signalling. Publishing clickbait might get clicks, but it subconsciously signals that your brand is low-quality. That is why so few clicks translate into sales. Publishing clickbait to maximize growth is akin to beating people over the head and dragging them into your store. Sure, they entered the store - but they will not buy anything.

In short, it’s a reminder that just because something looks good on the surface it doesn’t mean you’ll get the value you were expecting.

A disproportionate focus on short-term tactics will never beat long-term marketing strategies which is a piece we’ll be exploring in next months’ Fact or Fiction.

You can read the full article here.


Do You Trust Your Advertising?

Following on from our pieces on targeted advertising and short-termism it’s worth talking about the other major side effect of these approaches which is the potential loss of trust through our channel selections and what they signal to the market.

Ad legend Rory Sutherland points out that in our thirst for efficiency we’ve forgotten another important element:

“Many billions of pounds of advertising expenditure have been shifted from conventional media, most notably newspapers, and moved into digital media in a quest for targeted efficiency. If advertising simply works by the conveyance of messages, this would be a sensible thing to do. However, it is beginning to become apparent that not all, perhaps not even most, advertising works this way. It seems that a large part of advertising creates trust and conviction in its audience precisely because it is perceived to be costly.”

As Don Marti notes, “not every brand that buys a social media ad or other targeted ad is crap. But a social media ad is useless for telling crap brands from non-crap ones. It doesn’t carry economic signal.” 

Gareth Price also believes that we should prioritise media that carries brand value.

“Disregarding the context of the placement of an ad to reach the same person for less elsewhere, ignores the fact the signal is proportional to both the content of the ad and the value of the medium it appears within.”

What does this mean? Some channels signal that a brand is willing to invest more money and therefore can be trusted by the consumer.

At the moment many of us are choosing targeting over signalling. But low cost reach is no guarantee for effectiveness. And ultimately if the search for efficiency is ineffective your advertising is wasted.

Matt Arbon